Senate Republicans on Monday blocked progress on the long-stalled defense policy bill as the chamber heads towards year-end with no sign of agreement on legislation to pass in sight .
Both sides hoped to make progress earlier this week on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after months of bipartisan frustration over delays by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to present The law project.
But Republicans say they won’t proceed unless they’ve guaranteed a ground debate on a slew of GOP amendments.
“Despite the solid bipartisan work of our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee, the Democratic leader has kept this year’s Defense Authorization Bill in limbo for months and now wants to prevent the Senate from a real debate and a real amendment process, “said the Senate Minority Leader. Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell said Monday.
The standoff over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) adds further pressure on Mr Schumer as he looks down on a growing stalemate of legislative feats to be accomplished by the end of the year.
The New York Democrat was quick to hit back at his fellow Republicans.
“This is an example of dysfunction on the Republican side,” Mr. Schumer said. “The leaders of both parties, when we had bills like this, had to say to some members, ‘you can’t get some amendments.’ “
“Not everyone can get all the amendments they want,” he said.
Lawmakers have stacked more than 900 amendments to the already colossal bill in recent weeks, paving the way for a potentially lengthy process to get the measure across the finish line.
Among the hot spots this year is an amendment to strike language already passed by the entire House and the Senate Armed Services Committee that, for the first time in history, would force young women and men to register with the selective service and to be subject to military conscription. if he is restored.
Republicans are also calling for consideration of an amendment that would impose sanctions on Russia’s near-operational Nord Stream 2 submarine pipeline to Germany, in a final attempt to thwart the Kremlin’s dominance in European markets. energy.
The Senate and House versions of the bill also include language to increase next year’s defense budget by $ 25 billion, a key victory for Republicans and a setback for House progressives. who fought for a lower spending total.
Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, introduced a measure in the Senate to block the $ 25 billion increase and cut the Pentagon budget below Mr. Biden’s proposal.
Schumer also pledged to add a provision to the Senate version to repeal presidential use-of-force authorizations for the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Critics have long said that the presidents of both parties used the permissions to launch military action far beyond what the measures initially envisioned.
Congress has passed the bill on a bipartisan basis for six decades, making it a popular vehicle for major policy and spending changes within the Department of Defense and beyond.
But the NDAA is now one of many must-see bills that the Senate must cross the finish line in the coming weeks – including measures to avoid an impending government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
Yet Republicans show no sign of stalling the defense bill without a vigorous debate on the amendments.
“I think the Americans back home are smart enough to understand that our military deserves more,” said Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “They deserve to be our priority in the Senate, and we must show it to them by offering a solid and open debate on the annual defense bill.”
“We are here now because Senator Schumer will not prioritize national defense and fund our troops,” he said.